Makai Kingdom
PlayStation 2
Reviewed: 07/25/2005


Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, La Pucelle: Tactics, and Phantom Brave. These three titles, developed by Nippon Ichi Software, have graced American shores and breathed new life into the tactical RPG genre. This trend continues with Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome.

Players will take the role of Zetta, a rather arrogant Overlord of the Netherworld, who has every right to be, as he is the most powerful overlord in the universe. However, this is not meant to last as a prophecy foretelling the downfall of his Netherworld comes to light, prompting Zetta to attempt to prevent this destruction. A short battle tutorial later and suddenly Zetta finds himself fulfilling the prophecy himself, and winding up trapped inside of the Sacred Tome, a book that contains his Netherworld. To regain his body and his Netherworld, he must borrow mana power from other Overlords in the universe, in the form of wishes written upon his pages. These wishes take shape as pieces of the Netherworld, complete with their own battalions of monsters, and as it is rather difficult to do much in the way of fighting as a book, Zetta must create an army of minions to do his bidding. This is where the game picks up.

Screen Shot
“You dare pick a fight with me? I’m a freakin’ Overlord!”

To begin with, you are to choose a class and name for a character, as this is going to be the main character you control throughout the entirety of the game (Unless you choose to switch them). Afterwards you’re left to create more warriors via a system much like Phantom Brave‘s confine system, albeit more permanent. This time around, you confine characters to objects found in battle outside of battle, and this serves as the game’s character creation system. More classes and monsters can be unlocked after meeting certain requirements as well. Afterwards, characters can be equipped with a full set of armor and weapons. The equipment system is a bit less complicated this time around, as there is no leveling up necessary, and items come at a fixed strength. The only exception to this is when you come across an item with any number of stars after its name. Each star will provide an extra boost to whatever stats the item already gives, including increased bonus stats at character generation.

In addition to the option of a complete set of equipment, you are provided with a full array of buildings (like hospitals and command centers) and vehicles (such as tanks and mechs) to aid you in your quest. Characters and vehicles can begin the battle in, or enter buildings and emerge complete with some form of powerup, such as +30% ATK, +10% HP Regeneration, or a bonus to EXP. Vehicles perform in much the same way that characters do (as long as they have a pilot), able to attack, pick up items, or carry passengers around. The general advantage of a vehicle is increased movement rate, more durability, and stronger attack power.

Battles run in very much the same way that Phantom Brave did, in a gridless circle system, with one major addition. Battles are also run on a point system. While it is still viable to merely beat your opponents into submission, various enemies and items throughout the battlefield possess a certain amount of points. Once you reach a set amount, you have ‘cleared’ the battlefield and can end the battle in victory, regardless of the remaining number of enemies. Afterwards, you will receive a number of items or Hell (the game’s currency) depending on the number of points you have, much like Disgaea‘s bonus system. As for bringing your forces into the fray, you need only make use of Tome-Zetta to invite them to the field, along with the aforementioned vehicles and buildings. You are still able to pick up nearly everything on the field, but the inclusion of a full equipment system makes this unnecessary. However, you can lift up an ally and perform a combo attack if you really feel you must. The battlefield can also be expanded by defeating certain enemies (denoted by the word ‘Key’ floating above their heads), or throwing enemies out of bounds, providing additional enemies and items to encounter, and with them more points. In regards to a combo system, having multiple characters target and attack a single foe will provide additional damage and points depending on the number of characters participating in the combo. One thing of note is that the enemy AI is at times ridiculous when targeting your weaker characters. Once you put a level 1 healer on the field, for example, the entirety of the enemy forces will assault them like they owed money, oftentimes ignoring characters well within reach just to waste a turn pursuing said weaker character.

Screen Shot
The prinny squad guarding a… Dog house… With their lives.

Visually, the game is nothing new. If you’ve played any of the other NIS tactical RPGs, you’re on very familiar ground. Hand drawn sprites and grid-like battle locations. Which isn’t to say this is a bad thing necessarily, as they did a very good job on them. However, after the fourth time some players may find them slightly drab. The music of Makai Kingdom is also much in the same vein as its predecessors, which is also not a bad thing. If anything, it was an improvement. The soundtrack set the mood for every situation quite well, and I even found myself humming along to a few tunes. The voice acting is also rather good, with many characters fitting their roles quite well. Zetta comes off as a very arrogant, “Badass freakin’ Overlord,” Pram comes off as a mischievious oracle, and Valvolga comes off as an amalgamation of all sorts of final bosses (Which is rather tough to do, I’m sure), as they should.

Makai Kingdom is a break from the light-hearted tone of Phantom Brave, putting us back into Nippon Ichi’s often baffling universe of Netherworlds (Talking corn anyone?). While the plot leaves something to be desired, the gameplay makes up for it ten-fold, with a deep battle system that can suck up hours of your time during your first playthrough, and each additional time via the return of New Game+. Fans of previous NIS games should definitely not miss Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome.

-Quinton Alexander

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Legendary
Story Below Average
Graphics Below Average
Sound/Music Great
Replay Value Very Good
The Verdict: Great